Excited voices broke through Hermione's peaceful dreams about floating in the ocean.
With a soft groan she awoke. The bed was so soft and the linen smelt so good. Why couldn't they just let her be? Just as she was about beg her mother for just a few more minutes, her logic caught up with her wooly thoughts and she realized she wasn't at home. After all, Harry and Ron wouldn't be there, arguing about chess…
Before she could wonder how they had gotten entry to the girls' dormitory, Matron Pomfrey's voice arrived, whispering madly "Mr. Potter, if the both of you can't behave, I will make you leave, visiting privileges or not! Miss Granger is still sleeping and she needs her rest!"
"I'm sorry, Madam Pomfrey," both boys simultaneously spoke. Hermione could almost see the sheepish looks on her two friends faces and smiled. "We'll be quiet."
"It's okay." She called out, "I'm up."
The curtains around her bed opened themselves, as the matron marched towards her.
"Do you see what you did, Mister Potter!" She called back with a glare. Harry and Ron ignored her, calling out to their friend: "Hermione!" "I'm so glad to see you!"
She waved to them, before refocusing her attention towards the person who was waving a wand above her body, taking her vitals.
"I feel fine." She protested. "My head hurts a little, but that's all, honestly."
"You are not fine." The matron snapped. "You have been working too many hours, and have been eating too little. You have exhausted yourself."
That was nonsense, Hermione knew. Yes, she had been working hard, but she had learned to pace herself, and she had taken care to show up to every meal, both to eat and to see her friends. She called out to them:
"Ron, Harry, that's not true. Tell her!" But to her surprise they didn't defend her. Ridiculous, she thought. Whatever had happened yesterday had been a one-time incident…
… and then she realized: she didn't have the slightest idea what had happened and how she had ended up here.
Harry noticed her distress and moved closer. He took her hand and explained: "Yesterday night, professor Dumbledore carried your unconscious body to the infirmary. He told us you had fainted and had bumped your head when you fell in the potions lab."
Snatches of memories returned to her: the vial with the unknown potion, her blue dress and Slughorn with the bottle of poisonous wine..
"Ron. Are you all right?" She turned towards the other bed, remembering the poisoning.
"Yes. Thanks to you." He blushed, his red cheeks clashing with his orange hair. "Harry told me about the bezoar. You saved my life, Hermione."
She blushed as well. "You would have done the same."
Harry snorted. "We didn't even know what a bezoar was until last night. I seriously doubt we were of any use last night." Hermione remembered how her friends had sprung into action last night, supporting Ron and spreading out to find help. She disagreed with his statement: they had been of much use, even if she hadn't been there with her bezoar, madam Pomfrey would have arrived in time to help Ron.
She didn't get the chance to argue with him. The matron shooed him out, claiming it was time for his Quidditch practice. Startled Hermione realized she had slept almost an entire day.
"And you will sleep a lot more, miss Granger. You are stuck to that bed for the next 48 hours." The matron added with a strict look, when Hermione voiced her surprise. "No homework, no research, only rest and relaxation for you!"
Ron snickered at her dismayed face. "Only you, Hermione, would pout at the thought of no homework." She glared at him; as if she just worried about her homework. But there was something in her memories, just out of her reach, that nagged at her about her research. She knew there was something she should be doing now. Something to do with the Headmaster…
Ron eventually coached her into a game of chess, which she predictably lost.
Later that night, when Ron had already fallen asleep, snoring, Hermione succeeding in gathering more pieces of her memory puzzle. The potion had been Felix Felicitas, and Snape had taken it in combination with the Obscurus. She and the Headmaster had tested it on an ugly bunny. Something had happened afterwards. That part was still blurry in her mind, but she was certain that she hadn't just fainted. It had to be more than that.
A soft sound made her look up. The Headmaster had entered the infirmary and was making his way over. Hermione straightened herself, and tried not to think about how ridiculous she must look in the standard infirmary nighties.
"Good evening, Miss Granger. I do apologize for not visiting earlier. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine, thank you." She answered truthfully. Once the headache had disappeared, with the help of a few potions, she had been feeling very well. "Miss Pomfrey told me I fainted, but…" She hoped that the Headmaster would tell her the truth.
"Ah yes, very unfortunate. I blame myself off course, for giving you too many duties." He spoke, sounding non too guilty, the lights in his eyes twinkling madly.
Hermione glared at him. She understood the need for secrecy, but couldn't he simply wave his wand and mutter the Mufflatio. Hadn't she earned the truth?
"Don't, worry, Miss Granger, you may return to your duties, after this, let's call it a short vacation, yes. You must take care of yourself, there are many friends who want to see you healthy."
He handed her a crayon drawing of two stick figures on green grass. The slightly larger one had brown curly hair, so she assumed that would be her. The smaller one had black hair. She smiled, before folding the paper in half and hiding it in one of the books Madam Pomfrey had allowed her to keep.
"I wouldn't dream of taking your duties away from you." Dumbledore continued. "Not when you are so very good in what you do."
Only then did she notice it. Dumbledore's hand, it had been healed! The last memories clicked into place; but that was impossible! All the arguments that she made the night before, came back: it wasn't a healing potion, Snape had been deaged, not healed, … She opened her mouth to argue, but the Headmaster placed his index finger on her lips. It smelled lightly of soap, and nothing of the decay that had nearly made her gag the night before.
"I believe Matron Pompfrey decreed 48 hours of rest and relaxation." He stated with a wink. When Hermione nodded, he removed his finger. "I promise we will discuss your duties further. Perhaps we can even find a new project for you, seeing your capabilities."
Hermione's earlier blush returned.
"But for now, let's keep this…" His arm made a wide gesture, as if he wanted to draw a circle round everything in the room, "our secret." He suddenly cradled the arm he had just used, like it hurt to even think about moving it. Before Hermione's eyes, it changed color, and then shape, until it looked like it had before.
Baffled, Hermione stared at her Headmaster. He simply winked at her, and strolled out the room, leaving Hermione to her thoughts.
Madman, she thought. Definitely brilliant, perhaps even genius, but madman nonetheless. She chuckled herself to sleep.
The next day she wasn't feeling half so generous towards the Headmaster. Apparently the Matron's decree of 48 hours of bed rest was to be taken very literally. The few trips to the bathroom that she had been allowed to make, had been the result of very long and hard-fought discussion. In the end the matron had caved, claiming that the arguing would even exhaust the poor, ridiculously stubborn, girl even more.
To add insult, Ron was forced out of his bed every hour for short walks to strengthen his constitution and to stimulate his blood circulation. Hermione could only watch him stumble about, supported by the tiny (they seemed to arrive shorter and shorter each year) first and second years, who had the misfortune of sharing the infirmary with them (Potions accident, toothache and prank gone terribly, terribly wrong). Even though none of them were Gryffindor, they all were star struck enough to help the famous Quidditch Keeper (and best friend of Harry Potter) out.
Their friends had been indoctrinated as well: none of them had brought books (even though Lavender had been considerate enough to bring the paper) or homework for her. She pointedly ignored the sweets they had brought, but rejoiced in their company and the idle school gossip they brought with them.
Only Harry seemed a bit off, always laughing a bit too late at the jokes and not really joining in. When the others left for dinner, he lingered. The reason for his nervousness was evident when he started talking sitting on the edge of Hermione's bed, speaking softly so the other patients wouldn't overhear.
"Dumbledore is taking me Horcrux-hunting tonight."
"Cool." Was Ron's immediate response. Hermione glared at him
Harry continued, ignoring their interaction. "It feels weird. Finally being able to join in, not standing at the sidelines anymore." He shrugged impishly. "I just hope I don't screw up."
"You won't mate. Just the fact that Dumbledore trusts you to take you with him says enough." Ron sat up straighter in his bed, so he could face Harry. His movements were still wobbly, but Hermione had seen his earlier attempts and was glad for it.
"He wouldn't just take you out on a whim."
Hermione pushed the memory of the overly competent, slightly high Dumbledore from the night before out of her mind. Surely he knew what he was doing... And newly healed he would be competent enough for the both of them, right?
She grabbed Harry's hand. "Just promise you'll be careful, all right?" In an attempt to make light of her own concerns, she added "Two of us in here is enough."
Even though the joke was feeble, it did the trick. The three of them started laughing and continued joking in the same vain, until Harry left for dinner.
"He'll be fine." Ron said, in a voice that told Hermione he was trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to comfort Hermione.
"Sure," Hermione answered. "He's with Dumbledore." She didn't add, what could go wrong.
A few hours later, all hell broke loose.
The sirens, that they had only heard during Shacklebolt's training sessions, sounded, creating a noise that reverberated through every inch of their bodies. Hermione and Ron looked at each other, sharing a look that was deadly serious. They knew, this was not a drill. Hogwarts was really under attack.
Ron stumbled out of bed. Hermione jumped out of her bed, and held him, just before he was about to collapse onto the ground.
"No Ron, you're not strong enough yet." With a few waves of her wand, she transfigured their clothes in something more appropriate than nightwear.
She could see him biting back the pain. "But I have to fight, Hermione."
Their teachers had been training them for emergencies like this. The fifth years were supposed to escort the lower forms to a safe place, warded with several spells and traps, hidden away somewhere in the Castle. Each House had his own place, that was secret for the others. The older years should follow, making sure the younger children arrived safely and weren't followed.
It had never been said explicitly, but Hermione and everyone else knew that this meant that the older students could choose to fight alongside the teachers. Which was what Ron was planning.
"Ron, please." Hearing the sobs of the younger students, she changed tactics. "We have to stay here, guard the infirmary. The others won't wait for us, we're too far away from the common rooms."
Ron looked at the three anxious faces and transfigured the nearby chair into a cane. "All right, you lot. Which one of you is the best in Charms, because I need someone to help me barricade the door."
"No." Hermione halted them, "Not the door, barricade yourself in Madame Pomfrey's office. We need to set up an…" Her mouth turned suddenly dry and she needed to swallow before she could speak the next words. "An emergency hospice for the victims."
"Our Hermione, always thinking of everything." Ron winked at her. "So, Brown and Maddows, right? Why don't you two push Professor's Snape bed into the office. And you, sorry you'll have to introduce yourself properly again later, make sure there's room for all of us in there."
Meanwhile, Madam Pomfrey flooed in and busied herself and Hermione into setting up the hospice. While Hermione collected the necessary equipment, potions and poultices, and set them up, within reach but behind a barrier that could withstand errant spells; Madam Pomfrey moved the furniture around so the only access to the hospice was a narrow pathway and so those who entered could not immediately see the treatment area, which was now hidden behind cupboards and privacy screens. They were relatively safe from those who would enter with violent intentions.
This was obviously not the first time Madame Pomfrey had been in this situation, Hermione noticed.
When the sirens calmed down, both women were ready. They could faintly hear the sound of fighting, still at a distance. Hermione felt her heart beating in her chest. Behind her, Ron's voice started to repeat the same words over and over again.
It took a few moments for Hermione to understand what he was doing. He was teaching them a simple shielding spell, whilst keeping their mind of their surroundings!
"Flick and swish. Yes, Brown, you've got it! Keep repeating it! You're doing great."
Too bad he was the youngest Weasley brother, Hermione thought, he would have made a greater older brother to more siblings than only Ginny.
A few minutes later he exited the room and moved towards them.
"They are behind the desk practicing their umbrella shield." He explained. "I've warded the room with the runes Bill taught me to protect my room from my two brothers slash inventors. No one but me or Ginny can enter that room." He turned towards Matron Pomfrey, grinning sheepishly. "I'm sorry, those are the only names I can spell with the runes."
She answered with lights in her eyes. "Am I correct in presuming that the same goes for exiting the room." Ron nodded. It was evident from his grin that that too had been included in his plan to keep the younger students safe. "Good show, Mister Weasley."
It was a huge compliment to receive from the usually even tempered matron. Ron's ears turned beet red, but he tried to shrug it off.
"I figured I could be of more use here."
His eyes scanned the room, taking in the changes. He pointed at the far end of the cupboard that protected the makeshift area. "I should guard that end?"
Matron Pomfrey nodded. "Petrify everyone who enters." At Ron's confused look she continued. "Friend or foe, Mister Weasley. This is war, appearances can be deceiving."
Polyjuice. Hermione wondered if Arman's disguise would last through the entire fight. Otherwise those students in there will be in for a surprise when they notice he's not who they thought he was.
"Besides," Madame Pomfrey continued, "As a Nurse I treat all, not only who I choose to treat."
Hermione rose without thinking. Ron pulled her down. "What are you doing?" He hissed at her.
"I need to go." She tried to shake his arm off, but his grip was too strong.
"Are you insane? Walking right into a war!"
"I need to go." She stressed. "I just realized that they could be after…" She looked at Pomfrey, who looked equally worried, wondering how to explain the situation while keeping Ron in the dark.
"The potion Professor Snape was making before he became ill." The nurse filled in. "The potion Hermione was trying to finish." Finished, Hermione added in her thoughts.
Ron shook his head angrily. "I knew there was something more going on than just brewing for the infirmary."
"Now, Mister Weasley, I'll let you that every potion you have taken since you've been here is of her hand." Madam Pomfrey interjected.
"Off course. Because that's our Hermione. The overachiever." He still sounded bitter, but Hermione could tell he would forgive her. Certainly now when there were more important things to worry about.
"As much as it pains me to send a young girl out there…" Madam Pomfrey let her sentence trail of and handed her a first aid sling bag. "Send the wounded to us."
Ron understood and let reluctantly released Hermione's arm. "Just promise you'll be careful" He echoed her earlier sentence.
"You too." She whispered, terrified beyond belief.
It turned out to be much easier than she had expected to reach Snape's lab. The corridors were deserted; either the defenders had driven the attackers back outside, or – she didn't want to consider it- the attackers had forced their way deeper inside the castle.
"Borage." She whispered and was glad to find the lab intact. She continued downstairs.
"Junior!" She yelled out, fear and relief battling inside her, when she found an empty living room.
"Shh!" Miss Figg exited, wielding her umbrella like baseball bat. "I finally gotten him to sleep."
"We're under attack." Hermione told the elderly woman, incredulous that she would worry about bedtimes now.
"I've noticed the sirens." She deadpanned, but softened when she saw that Hermione was genuinely afraid. "The doors are heavily warded, by professor Dumbledore himself. No one but us knows the passwords. We're safe here."
"I'll stay here and protect you." Hermione said, gripping her wand.
As if it was timed, the bloodcurdling howl of a werewolf echoed through the castle halls.
"Greyback" Hermione whispered, shaking. If there had been any doubt in her that it weren't the Death Eaters, it had withered away by now.
"Your wand is needed elsewhere." Miss Figg gently pushed her towards the door.
"But I can't leave you here alone. It's not safe." Hermione balked at the idea of leaving them both defenseless.
"This is not my first war." Suddenly she released Hermione's arm, and pushed the umbrella into the air, as if she were to stab someone. Red fire exited through the top.
"Kwikspells." Hermione noted unnecessary. Miss Figg nodded.
"I will defend the boy's life with my own."
Hermione saw the other woman was deadly serious and nodded her assent.
"Go back upstairs, block the doorway and destroy the lab, so any passersby's will think it has already been raided and leave it."
"Thank you." Hermione hadn't thought of that.
"As I said, this is not my first war." The older woman said gravely.
As Hermione ascended the stairs, she softly heard her continue "Let's just hope it will be my last."
Back upstairs, Hermione raided the cupboards for anything that looked useful in battle. Then she thoroughly blasted the benches and the empty vials to create the scene they needed. She then pushed the cupboard in front of the door as an extra barrier, hoping, praying it would be enough to protect them.
Than she entered the hallway again and followed the noise, hoping against hope she would be of any use.
It didn't take before she found her first fight. In the hallway leading to the library Prof. Flitwick was dueling a Death Eater in full regalia. At their feet lay three students. Only Terry Boot was conscious, struggling to sit and stand up. His wand was out of his reach.
Hermione snuck closer, hid behind a pillar and only when she was absolutely sure she would hit her intended target she showed herself and "Stupify!"
"Miss Granger." Professor Flitwick looked surprised from her to the body that slumped down in front of him. "Not by the rules of a fair fight, but very effective." He gave her a small bow before petryfing the body.
Hermione bound and hid the unconscious man, so he wouldn't be woken up by one of his colleagues.
"You'll need to secure Jones as well, Granger" Terry spoke weakly, finally able to stand up, leaning against the wall. Flitwick handed him his wand.
Jones? A Hufflepuff? Hermione was shocked, but complied nevertheless.
"If Miss Abbott hadn't deflected the blast, Mr. Boot wouldn't be here to tell the tale." The small teacher gave Terry an encouraging pat on his lower back.
Terry coughed before spitting a wad of saliva mixed with blood on the floor. "Is Hannah all right," he asked with a hint of fear in his voice.
Training kicking in, Hermione checked her life signs, glad to find them strong. "She's fine. But she'll need to go to the infirmary though for the head wound."
"You'll need to go as well." Professor Flitwick told Terry Boot. "You're hurt."
"But we don't know if it's safe…" Terry started to protest. Even though his body was battered, it was clear he wanted to keep fighting.
"It's safe." Hermione countered the argument before he could make it. "Ron and Madame Pomfrey have secured it and I saw no one in the hallways between us and them."
"Now, Mr. Boot." Professor Flitwick ordered the reluctant boy. "Miss Abbott needs your help."
Terry gently lifted Hannah's body up with a Locomotor spell and left with a last glance at his Head of House.
"I suppose I can't persuade you to accompany them." Prof. Flitwick asked, focusing his glare on Hermione.
"My wand is needed elsewhere." Hermione repeated the words that had been spoken to her. She realized she sounded more self-assured then she felt.
"We'll be fighting Death Eaters."
"I've fought them before." The scar she received from Doholov itched, but she consciously kept herself from scratching it.
"They've brought a werewolf." He sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose before continuing. "This isn't a game. This is deadly serious."
Hermione decided it wasn't worth mentioning that she had already face a werewolf. She simple rummaged in her bag, found the vial she had brought with her and lobbed it towards her professor.
"What is this?" Her teacher asked surprised, confused by the lack of verbal response.
"It was an silver stirring spoon, dissolved in Horntail Acid."
Professor Flitwick grinned despite himself and shook his head several times as if he himself didn't believe what he was about to agree to.
They roamed the hallways together, trying to follow the sound of Greyback howling. They only stopped when meeting a wounded student or to Hermione's surprise Order Members, redirecting them to the infirmary. Hermione did hand out several healing potions, and in one occasion, Professor Flitwick spelled an empty armor suit to (carefully) drag an unconscious third year student towards madam Pomfrey.
"He should have been safely tucked away with the others." Flitwick commented angrily.
Hermione recognized him as Katie Bell's younger brother. "He wanted to fight."
"You're all too damn young to fight," he muttered beneath his breath.
They continued in silence. Eventually they found when the fight had been headed.
In the inner court yard several teachers and Order Members were battling the remaining Death Eaters. An exhausted Professor McGonagall noticed them and yelled "Greyback isn't with them."
An Auror added "I saw him and the Lestrange woman heading towards the Astronomy Tower."
Another howl pierced the night sky. Flitwick dragged Hermione off, towards their new target.
"But we need to help them." She protested, gesturing towards the battle.
Determined her teacher answered, "They can handle themselves. Whatever the intended target is, it isn't here."
She nearly had time to wonder what the intended target could be, when they arrived at the tower.
Tonks and Bill Weasley were defending the staircase with their lives. Unfortunately, it seemed like they were about to pay for the defense with said lives.
Flitwick attacked immediately, sheltering the fallen Auror by floating a rather large piece of rubble in front of Bellatrix's Cruciatus Spell.
"What's the matter, little niece, need your tiny-tiny teacher to bail you out?" the mad woman cackled, trying to bait her opponents.
Tonks merely gritted her teeth before jumping upright and lobbing a spell towards her dear aunt.
Meanwhile Greyback had taking advantage of the confusion caused by their arrival and surged the oldest Weasley brother, clawing at him until he no longer fought back and slumped to the floor. The werewolf reveled in the blood and celebrated by unleashing yet another bloodcurdling howl.
Hermione, who had frozen the moment they had arrived from the sight of blood, was pushed literally into action by her teacher, who ripped her bag from her shoulder and told her "to fight" or did she want to die here. With a last glance towards the red-haired man who looked so much like her best friend, she cast her first spell towards the woman who had killed Sirius Black almost a year ago.
Her attempt was easily neutralized, and caused Bellatrix Lestrange to go into another laughing tirade against Mudbloods and Bloodtraitors. Neither women paid much attention to it, they had all heard the insults before, and fought to the best of their abilities. Hermione's spells proved to be nothing more than a mere nuisance to the Death Eater; every one of them were simply waved away.
'Wandless magic', a stray thought passed through Hermione's adrenaline rushed brain, 'must learn to cast wandless magic'
Although Hermione didn't manage to cause any damage, she did force Bellatrix to defend herself on two fronts, giving Tonks the breathing space she needed to stand her own against her formidable adversary.
Unfortunately, as it often goes for the weakest link in any fight, Hermione soon got hit by a spell, that tore right through her defensive shield. As she fell down, she felt, rather than saw Tonks shielding her body by moving in front of her.
Her mind flickered in and out of consciousness. The sounds that buzzed around the room, laughter and screaming and howling in pain, frightened her and the cold from the floor seeped into her body. She felt sick, wanted to throw up and scream at the world to stop it. But her body failed to listen.
Suddenly it all just stopped, and she heard a gentle voice telling her it would all be fine.
The world faded to black.